Ravid Kahalani, the creator and mastermind of Yemen Blues, is a musician on a mission - a mission to unite the world with music across cultural and theological boundaries.
Israeli born with Yemenite parents, Kahalani grew up in a religious home that exposed him to Hasidic and Yemenite music from an early age. Ritual trips to the synagogue with his father left a lasting impression on him. “It was a Yemenite synagogue, a very simple building, and I remember the powerful feelings I had as a child when singing the verses of the prayers. It was always about singing and accurately pronouncing verses in a perfect Arabic accent.” (Times of Israel)
An inherent free spirit, Kahalani broke away from his religion and his childhood home as a teenager to discover his own path and find his own way. He described it as a time of "deep exploration" that eventually led him to hard drugs. It wasn't until the age of 20 that he resolved to turn his life around. “I woke up one day with the understanding that I was going to end up a druggie at the central bus station or dead if I don’t stop now,” (Times of Israel)
From that point on he explored healthier outlets of expression from cooking (he spent seven years as a professional chef), to training in dance, performing in the theater, and singing opera. Throughout it all music was the constant and omnipresent driving force in his life. By the age of 25 he knew music was not only his calling, but his destiny.
Yemen Blues is the result of his life's journey thus far and has a sound and style as unique as he is. Rooted in the traditions of Yemenite singing, Yemen Blues threads West African funk, blues, jazz, and other musical traditions together creating a high-energy, danceable experience for young and old.
Yemen Blues will be performing a free concert here in Jacksonville on December 20th at the Jacksonville Jewish Center at 7pm. We were fortunate enough to get a chance to ask Ravid a few questions for our blog this week and got to know the visionary artist behind the music better.
"Talent is no substitute for preparation." - 10 Questions with Musician and Arts Educator, Rashon Medlock
Rashon Medlock is an unassuming individual. Quiet and reserved, his demeanor doesn't boast the wealth of talent, knowledge, or musical dexterity he possesses. That is, until he picks up his guitar and microphone or takes a seat at his piano. It's then that the magic happens and the shy, gentle giant opens up and lets you into his world.
A musician to his core, Rashon writes, composes, and produces music - when he's not teaching music to exceptional and at risk students all around Jacksonville. He understands the value of giving back, why the arts are not only important but integral to our lives and the development of our youth, and why support in and for the community is the cornerstone of our artistic evolution in Jacksonville and beyond.
Rochelle Underdue is a dynamic spirit who has found her path. Everything about her screams movement, passion, and authenticity. Far more than a dance instructor, she aims to translate her fervor for dance into a ministry that leads wandering artistic souls to creative liberation. With already more than ten years of experience under her belt, she is currently enrolled at UNF earning her BFA in Religious Studies. Her endless drive to learn and improve herself feeds her desire to help others break out of the constraints she has often experienced along her journey.
With an infectious positivity, she's making her own way in Jacksonville. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with her and get to know more about what she's doing to change the face of dance in this city, one step at a time.
When speaking on the subject of Arts Advocacy, oftentimes the advocacy efforts stop shy of the Artists themselves. That's why Artist Advocates and co-conspirators like Kate MacKinnon are so valuable and essential to an arts advocacy ecosystem.
A biologist and chemist with a deep love and appreciation for the arts that stretches back to her early childhood, Kate operates KF Mac Consulting - a business consultation firm geared directly at serving Artists and the Arts Community. She observed a need among a deeply underserved artist community in Jacksonville in particular - a need for structured business strategy, branding, marketing, and implementation. This was her inspiration for forming her consultation firm and offering those very services at insanely reasonable costs.
Advocates and co-conspirators like her see a need and fill it with the beneficiary in mind first. If you've ever had the pleasure of encountering Kate, you know what a giving and passionate spirit she has. If not, read on and get to know the Force of Giving that is Kate MacKinnon.
Advocacy manifests in many forms. In the case of Theatre on a Mission, it manifested as the brainchild of a Junior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts about five years ago. Chelsey Cain, now 24, started the non-profit organization after having spent several years exchanging letters with a pen-pal in Kenya to whom she was introduced through an orphanage by the name of Foundation Stone Children's Center, established by friends of her family serving as missionaries in Africa. At the time she felt compelled to reach out further to her Kenyan friend in an effort to do more for her and her fellow classmates across the globe. The idea to use her passion for theatre as a means to connect and raise money and awareness was the beginning of what would become a growing and thriving non-profit dedicated to bringing the love and joy of performance art to children living in impoverished locations.
Since it's inception in 2014, Theatre on a Mission has executed many successful mission trips to Kenya, Haiti, Costa Rica, and already has plans to expand further. This week we sat down with Chelsey to learn more about Theatre on a Mission and get to know about a small non-profit making a big difference in the lives of the students and families it touches.
"Hip Hop is Art. It’s not easy to do and it deserves to be a respected part of Jacksonville’s Culture." - 10 Questions with Mas Appeal - DJ, Emcee, and Host
Image courtesy of Obscura Lux
The job of a DJ is not an easy one. It's rare to find a DJ that's not only skilled in keeping an event lively, but can also read a crowd, give them what they want (along with some of what they didn't realize they wanted), and keep the party going while not missing a beat. It truly is an art form.
Miguel "Mas Appeal" Almeida is one of those rare DJs - though he's certainly much more than that. He's been creating art in this city for over fifteen years and throws some of the best parties in Jacksonville that you probably don't know about (yet). He's also one of those individuals that's extremely approachable, friendly, and surprisingly unassuming considering all that he's done and continues to do. Hip Hop and its principles are infused within every facet of the work he does from creating and producing music, to DJing, Emceeing and hosting events, and volunteering with at risk youth. For him Hip Hop is more than his Artistry, it's a way to reach people and give back.
"I don’t have to define myself as one thing. I am a lot of things. I am a Creator." - 10 Questions with Social Networker Kristina 'Ktown Kris' Hatcher
To call Kristina Hatcher a Jill of All Trades would be a massive understatement and a blatant falsehood, particularly the bit about being a Master of None. She absolutely has a lot of irons in her fire at any given moment, and she manages them all with a miraculous ability to keep the same positive, forward thinking energy from one project to the next. She would be better classified as a veritable Force of Nature.
Kristina is not a native of Jacksonville, however, to speak to her, you would never know it. She's one of the biggest advocates for this city that you will ever meet, and she is especially passionate about promoting and nurturing the Arts and Culture scene in Jacksonville. From the moment she moved here twelve years ago, she hit the ground running within the Arts and Entertainment sector, using her photographic skills to leverage her way into a position to begin creating and developing her artistic identity. She's a creative force to be reckoned with and can often be heard saying, "just put me in the room with [insert name of influential behemoth] and I'll get it done."
She's indeed done it all: from coordinating and hosting events, to creating content for print and broadcast media, producing and modeling in fashion shows, and artist development, management, and promotion. She's connected to nearly every scene in Jacksonville in one way or another, and if she's not involved yet, it's probably on her to do list.
Motivated, forward thinking, creative, and sincere - she's one of Jacksonville's best kept secrets and it's about time the word got out.
Providing Artistic Opportunities For Our Youth - 10 Questions with Rosemary Thornton, Cultural Service Internship Liaison
"When youth are afforded the opportunity to gain skills and experiences to prepare them to pursue their dreams, we all win." - Rosemary Thornton
In 2018 the City of Jacksonville announced that the Mayor’s Summer Jobs program had been expanded into the Mayor's Youth at Work Partnership. The city partnered with business, education, nonprofit and philanthropic entities to develop an integrated youth employment career pathway system.
The program goals centered around "building the talent pipeline for our local economy by connecting young adults with education and employment career pathways that prepare them to meet the skill demands of employers while leading them to workforce success."
The MYAWP program this summer occurred from June 18, 2018 - July 27, 2018 and included career assessment, employment readiness training, a preceding Youth College and Career Fair and 20-hour work weeks. With the program's expansion, a wide variety of employment opportunities was anticipated.
In an effort to get to know more about the program, we reached out to Rosemary Thornton, Cultural Service Internship Liaison
“During my 30 years at Americans for the Arts, I have had the great privilege to visit and learn about a different community nearly every week. While they differ vastly from one another, there is one common strength I have observed: the arts have made a profound impact on the health of each community.”
Robert L. Lynch, President, Americans for the Arts
What started in the Fall of 2013 as a monthly happy hour that took place "Every Single Second Thursday", Every Single Artist Lounge (ESAL) began as the brainchild of Mason Martin, current Project Manager for the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville (CCGJ). With the mission of building community amongst the artists in the Jacksonville area, the Cultural Council extended an invitation to "every single artist in our area, so that we may alert you to opportunities". Interested parties would meet at The Volstead in Downtown Jacksonville to exchange ideas, network, and learn about opportunities available to them.
While the event garnered a fair amount of success, visibility, and engagement, by 2016 participation and involvement had waned. A need to reimagine a plan of attack for rebuilding momentum became evident. It was then that Mason enlisted the help of Patrick Fisher - former Community and Collaboration Manager for the CCGJ - to breathe life back into the initiative. At that point it was determined that ESAL needed to be open to all age groups (not restricted to the 21+ requirements of the venue), it was decided that a different venue would be chosen as a host location from month to month, and finally, local artists would serve as regular co-hosts of the event.
Photo Credit: Toni Smailagic
Questions? Comments? Submit something for consideration?
Please email Jihan@CulturalCouncil.org